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P.E.I. watershed group keeping eye on fallout from oil spill in Charlottetown harbour

The MV Ancier has been docked in Charlottetown Harbour since Jan. 12. When Transport Canada inspectors deem the vessel compliant with oil pollution prevention regulations, it will be permitted to travel to India where it will be scrapped.  (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
The MV Ancier has been docked in Charlottetown Harbour since Jan. 12. When Transport Canada inspectors deem the vessel compliant with oil pollution prevention regulations, it will be permitted to travel to India where it will be scrapped. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

Environmental groups on P.E.I. will be keeping a close watch on whether and how an oil spill in Charlottetown might affect fish life and other marine organisms.

About 167 litres of fuel — roughly the size of a full bathtub — leaked from the MV Ancier into the harbour on Jan. 14. Nearby residents said they could smell a strong odour in the Hillsborough River, and could see an oily sheen on the ice and water.

In the following days, provincial environmental officers inspected an area inland from Charlottetown around the Mermaid area of the tidal estuary and were "confident there is no apparent risk to groundwater, shellfish resources or wildlife in the area."

The smell of fuel had lessened but the sheen remained trapped in the ice when the officers visited the Mermaid site again Monday, the province said in an email to CBC News.

"As the temperature continues to drop, new ice continues to form and ice rafting taking place," the province said. "As a result, the sheen can still be easily identified, and unfortunately with the cold, its breakdown/dispersal is very slow at this time."

The Canadian Coast Guard has told CBC News that Dyed Marine Gas Oil (MGO) was being loaded onto the ship from tanker trucks when the spill was noticed.

But Kris Hunter of the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance says he is concerned about the fuel spill's impact on aquatic life.
But Kris Hunter of the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance says he is concerned about the fuel spill's impact on aquatic life.

P.E.I. Watershed Alliance vice-chair Kris Hunter is concerned about the fuel spill's impact on aquatic life. (CBC/Zoom)

Kris Hunter, the vice-chair of the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance, said a fuel spill of that size is never a good thing, and time will tell whether there is any impact on aquatic life.

"That's really what the concern would be… Are we going to see a disruption in the ecosystem of the Charlottetown harbour?"

The Canadian Coast Guard is investigating the spill, and will deal with any cleanup needed. 

Ancier operated as ferry

The Ancier, built in 1973 and formerly known as Vacancier, was a cruise ship/car ferry that spen 17 years on a CTMA route between Montreal and the Magdalen Islands off northeastern Prince Edward Island.

It was then decommissioned before being sold in December.

We're on alert, watching for sort of any signs. — Kris Hunter, P.E.I. Watershed Alliance

When Transport Canada inspectors deem the vessel compliant with oil pollution prevention regulations, it will be allowed to leave Canada to travel to India, where it will be scrapped.

In the meantime, Hunter said the watershed alliances in the area will continue to monitor the situation closely.

"We're on alert, watching for sort of any signs — physical signs, just the sheen, or … dead fish or … dead organisms or anything like that."